Does Salary Justify Your Happiness Sacrifice At Work? [+Survey Results]

A couple of days ago, I published the most in-depth personal analysis of happiness at work. This article showed exactly how my career has influenced my happiness, ever since I started working in September 2014. It turns out my work only has a small negative influence on my happiness. And I feel lucky about that since I'm paid very well for that sacrifice in happiness.

I got me thinking about what happiness means at work for others. Sure, it's cool to analyze my own personal data, but I think it's much cooler to include the data of others.

I didn't initially plan this article, I just naturally started writing it. I hope you enjoy this little experiment, and if you stick around, you might be able to continue the discussions by contributing your own experiences! More on that later, though. 😉

Table of content

So let's get started! After finishing my own personal analysis of happiness at work, I wanted to know how others felt about these interesting questions. That's why I went to Reddit and asked my questions there.

How much happiness do you sacrifice by working?

That's why I posted this question on the financial independence subreddit, a place where thousands of people gather online to discuss topics such as financial freedom and retiring early. Logically, work is a frequent topic of discussion in this forum as well, which is why I thought it'd be interesting to ask the following question there.

How much happiness do you sacrifice by working, and do you feel like your salary justifies that?

To help understand this question, I showed them the following chart and included a simple example.

This example here shows a Redditor that recently changed from a high-stress and soul-crushing job to a low-stress and cushy job, despite a lower salary. In the end, he sacrifices a lot less happiness at work, which is why he made a great decision!

happiness sacrifice at work simple paint
Accepting an easier job with a lower salary in order to be happier at work, which in this case makes total sense!

I didn't expect it, but this question caused quite a nice and positive reaction in the subreddit. It got over 40,000 views and more than 200 reactions!

You can color me amazed! 🙂

The results varied a lot and ranged from soul-crushing and terrible jobs to nothing short of dream jobs.

Some actual examples of happiness at work

One Redditor called "billthecar" (link) gave the following answer:

It's been a while since I've had a 'terrible' job. I was getting bored of my last one, but it was cushy (go in when I wanted, leave when I wanted, authority of most of what I did in a day, good pay, etc).

Then I got a surprise new job offer a couple of months ago. WFH (Work From Home) 80%, much better pay, etc. It's been wonderful.

I'd say I went from Good, but close to the line, to much lower (happier) and much further right (pay). I would still RE from this job, but it'll make getting there much happier.

Another Redditor by the name of "xChromaticx" (link) had quite a different perspective:

My salary would need to be at least 5 times what I'm making right now for it to be a good trade off.

Without providing any more details, I think it's safe to say that his salary doesn't justify his sacrifice in happiness.

I wanted to show you 2 extreme examples right away. Obviously, the bulk of the responses was a lot more as you would expect. The Redditor "goose7810" (link) provides us with a perspective that I think a lot more people can relate to:

My job as an engineer puts me right on the line usually. Personally, a lot of my happiness is tied to experiences. I love traveling, going out with friends, etc. I also enjoy having a decent place to come back to. So a solid middle class job was necessary for me to achieve my goals. Obviously there are days my job stresses me beyond belief but other days when I walk out at 2PM because my work is done. And all in all when I’m sitting somewhere I’ve never been with the work phone turned off, I realize it’s a pretty nice life. Everyone has their wants and needs though and the level of crap they are willing to go through to get there.

Isn’t that what work is for? To allow us the opportunity to live the lives we want? Obviously there is a line. If my job forced me to be there 80hrs a week and I had no time for the things I love I’d be out in a heartbeat. But a nice 40 hr / week mid level engineering job is perfect for me. Nice amount of time off and it affords me the means to enjoy that time off.

My goal is to be financially independent to my lifestyle expectations by 50-55. Then I want to go teach high school and coach football as a supplement. Free summers, health insurance, etc. So far I’m on track but I’m only 28. Anything could happen in the next 25 years. Just gotta enjoy life as it happens.

These comments cover just about every area on the "happiness-sacrifice vs. salary chart".

I tried to indicate where these 3 Redditors would be located on this chart, and came up with the following result:

So here you see these 3 very clear examples as charted on this "happiness-sacrifice" graph.

Oh, I switched the axis around, in case you were wondering. Hope you don't mind! 😉

Anyway, it's these comments that inspired me to actually go out of my way and collect ALL of them in a spreadsheet.

Yes, I went full retard and manually tracked every. single. reply in a spreadsheet. I know, I know... I'm a freak... 🙁

ANYWAY, you can access this spreadsheet with every single comment, reference, and sentiment in this online spreadsheet.

If you were one of the participants in this Subreddit post, you should be able to find your response in there!

Oh, and before you get mad: the exact location of your data point is subject to my own interpretation. I tried to determine - based on your comment - how much happiness you sacrifice at your job, and if you felt your salary justified that sacrifice. I charted the data as a percentage, as I would otherwise just be guessing at numbers. I'll be the first to admit that this visualization is nothing close to scientific. It's also undeniably prone to biases and errors, and for that I'm sorry.

I mostly conducted this "experiment" just for fun.

With that said, let's have a look at the results!

How many of you "tolerate" your jobs?

I sorted each reply into one of three categories.

  1. You like your job: you feel like your salary more than justifies your sacrifice in happiness, if there's any at all.
  2. You tolerate your job: you would never work for free, but the salary you earn makes it just tolerable.
  3. You hate your job: You work a soul-crushing job, and the money you make does NOT make up for it....

I then plotted each category in a simple bar chart.

This shows how many people simply tolerate their jobs. The biggest number of respondents (46%) were "okay" with their jobs: it wasn't a big source of their happiness, but also not too miserable. The salary justifies this sacrifice in happiness and allows them to pursue their hobbies during the non-work days. It's a fair deal to most.

It's also good to see that 26 out of 84 replies (31%) stated they were VERY happy with their job. I actually consider myself to be a part of this group, as you might have read about in my in-depth analysis.

Anyway, let's continue with the rest of this set of data.

Charting all the results

I have created a scatter chart with all the interpreted answers to this question.

Can you find your own answer in there?

Where am I located on this "happiness-sacrifice" chart?

Having already analyzed my entire career in a LOT of detail, I went ahead and charted my career at different times in this same chart.

This chart shows the various unique periods of my career in a chart, and I've added some comments to explain the key differences.

I feel like this is the most accurate display of the different periods in my career.

The first thing I want to highlight here is that most of these periods are located in the good area of this chart! That means that I have generally felt like I have a good job. I have tolerated and even enjoyed most of my periods at my current employer. Hurray! 🙂

The duration-weighted-average is also located nicely on the good side of this line.

I am especially feeling lucky about my job in 2018 so far. I haven't even experienced a single day that was negatively impacted by my work!

I hope I don't jinx it by publishing about it in this post!

There has been one period that has been a little more challenging for me.

Expatting in Kuwait

The only period during which I was really in a shitty situation was when I traveled to Kuwait in 2014 to work on a massive project.

Even though my salary increased in relation to my 2014 salary, my happiness really suffered as a result of my work. I worked >80 hours a week and basically lost all my positive energy during this relatively short period. I didn't properly cope with the long and demanding hours, and I basically burned out within a couple of weeks.

It sucked. That's why I have tried to avoid situations like these ever since.

Follow this link if you want to read more about how my life in Kuwait influenced my happiness.

What about you?

I'd love to continue this wonderful discussion. And apparently, I'm not alone, as this question is still discussed on Reddit as I type this post! 🙂

So why stop here?

I would love it if you would share your experiences in the comments. How do you feel about your work? How much happiness do you sacrifice by working? And do you feel like your salary justifies that sacrifice?

Are you a blogger?

It'd be amazing if other bloggers could share their own experiences in a similar post (like this one!). These simple questions have created quite a bit of discussion and engagement on Reddit, and I feel like that could also be the case for many blogs!

That's why I want you to chime in!

Especially if you are a FIRE and/or personal finance blogger. I know there is a big community of you out there, so if you're up for it, I'd love to read about the happiness-sacrifice at work in one of your future articles!

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Write a post on this topic. Create your own visualizations and share your experiences at your job. Are you already retired? That's awesome. That way, there are probably a LOT of different periods at work you can include, perhaps also with different employers!
  2. Include a link to every other blogger who has written ahead of you about this concept in your post.
  3. Try to get as many other bloggers to follow your example. The more the merrier!
  4. As a courtesy, attempt to keep your post updated as others join the discussion behind you.

Want to create the same graphs? Please open my shared spreadsheet and select the second tab called "Personal data from my career". This tab is filled in with my personal experiences by default, but you can save and edit your own version!

This second tab includes clear instructions on how to save and edit this data. It also shows you exactly how to use these charts to present on your website, either as static images or interactive charts! It's probably much easier than you think! 😉

Also, the first tab includes all the replies that I've logged from Reddit. Feel free to remix this data for more interesting visuals! In my opinion, there can never be enough interesting graphs!

What are your thoughts?

How do you feel towards your current job? Do you sacrifice a lot of your happiness by working? Are you satisfied with the money you make in exchange? How aggressively are you currently pursuing financial freedom and/or early retirement?

I'd love to continue the wonderful discussions!

Also, if you have any other questions or feedback, please let me know in the comments!

Cheers!

Who runs Tracking Happiness?

My name is Hugo, and I'm from the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, a passion for data and statistical analysis and am an expert in happiness.

I've tracked my happiness every day for 5 years in a row. And I'm now using my knowledge to inspire you to prioritize your happiness. You see, I'm a strong believer in what gets measured gets managed. I want to show you what I - and many others - have learned while tracking your happiness.

My Happiness Essays have reached thousands of people around the world and have been shared in many places.

With my data, I have inspired hundreds of others to also track their happiness. And I'm hoping this number will only grow more!

Hugo Tracking Happiness Snapshot

2 thoughts on “Does Salary Justify Your Happiness Sacrifice At Work? [+Survey Results]

  1. I saw this post on Reddit! Thanks for creating this follow up. I think it’s a great idea to invite others to share their experiences, especially those who have already retired. I hope it catches on 🙂

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